Point of View

Alien POV (AKA writing about seals as fierce predators and nature’s power bar)

Writing from an alien point of view is about as much fun as you can have on your computer without needing a credit card. But it also can torpedo your book straight down to the depths of no-one will read this, even if it wins awards. Finn’s a half-human half-selkie who can turn into a selkie in a world where half-bloods are stuck with all the potential in the world and no ability to change.

I started to write about selkies because of shark week. You can’t learn much about predators without talking about their prey. I use seal rooks which are harem based with bachelor seals often pairing up being a thing. Seals are fascinating creatures. Did you know they are related to bears? That there are three kinds of seals? True seals (also called “crawling”, furred seals and sea lions, and walruses all within the seal superfamily? Each one of my selkies have their pelts. In No Mortal Business, the Pacific sea witch says she has enough selkie-pelts to carpet the ocean floor. Finn’s pelt is a leather jacket. It has claws and a tiny little personality that emerged all on its own and it has a total crush on Devon.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to writing alien points of view is that your main character has to be familiar enough that your reader can relate to it but different enough that the reader is reminded every time that the point of view sticks out that this POV isn’t entirely human. I cheated a bit; Finn’s dad is (mostly) human and he has a lot of human emotions that other selkies don’t have quite so much as. It’s kind of the anti-Spock. Selkies, much like Padme, can literally die of a broken heart. It’s the #1 killer of selkies, even taking sharks into consideration. There’s a couple times in the book that Finn is so heartbroken, it’s a good thing that his master still holds his heart or he would have died from how much it hurt.

When it comes to his point of view, though, he has an edge on most humans. Humans can train themselves to fake emotions well enough to pass lie-detector tests, but they have no ability to change the way they smell. So rather than say a character looked a certain way, Finn notices the way they smell, first. There’s only one person in the world he can’t smell well enough to see how they feels, and surprise, it’s not his lover. It’s his sort-of stepmother.

I love Finn’s POV for three reasons. For one, his human part allows him to use magic, but in order to fuel the magic, he needs lots and lots of calories, so he’s hungry all the time. It’s fun to feed Finn because after a decade of eating his master’s scraps, he’s just so grateful for every morsel of food he gets. I watched the trained seals in West Edmonton Mall. The dolphins were doing what they were doing because they enjoyed playing for the most part, but the seals were staring at their trainers to see if what they were doing was enough to get fed yet. That carries over in Finn’s point of view. He worries that Devon feeding him fresh raw fish is going to put him in the poor house.

Secondly, in No Mortal Business, he’s very concerned with his smell. Juveniles, especially young males don’t start to smell musky until after they reach sexual maturity so the alpha seal doesn’t kill them. Finn has never been allowed to develop an adult musk, and he works very hard at creating and maintaining one. He’s absolutely thrilled when Devon likes the new way he smells.

To keep selkie pups safe in general and not just from the alpha male, pups can’t transform into their seal self without their mother’s help until they’re going through puberty. Finn loses his mother when he’s six years old. Part of being a selkie means that their memories don’t fade or disappear, even as very young pups so he can remember his mom as vividly as though she had died last week instead of when he was a child. For the first six years of his life, his mother was the centre of his universe. When she disappears, not only does he not know how to function in the human world, he doesn’t meet another selkie until he’s twenty eight. His sort-of step mother helped in the how to make his pelt and figuring out how his plumbing works.

And that’s because, for my final reason for loving Finn’s POV, selkie sex is…complicated. Selkies aren’t like humans. They mate in a very specific pattern. In a mated pair, there is an internal partner and an external partner. This isn’t to say that all females are internal and all males are external, though. Trans characters exist and though Finn doesn’t know it, there are selkies who just don’t want to connect to anyone.

Most (but not all) females are internal while most (but not all) males are external. Your sexuality (gay or straight) has nothing to do with how you connect, but the percentage of external females and internal males are about at the same percentage as there are gay people in this world. But there are straight and gay internal males and straight and gay external females. The rarest in both genders are external straight females and internal gay males, which means if you’re an internal straight or an external gay male, you’re pretty much screwed, only not literally.

The good news is humans are plug and play. They can connect to any kind of seal. While any children the pair might have is not going to be able to turn into a selkie (except for Finn…Finn’s entirely his own category) if a selkie gives his heart to a human, the human ages at the same rate as the selkie, who can live up to 500 years if they aren’t eaten by a shark or get their hearts broken. Finn was tricked out of his heart when he was just eighteen, but for reasons that don’t need to explored at this juncture, he gave away his heart but got to keep his love for Devon. Most selkies are physiologically forced to love the one who possesses their heart, even if it was given up by hook or by crook.

Finn gave it up by crook, but the series is about his struggle to get it back. It took multiple, multiple drafts to rewrite their story, going back to the drawing board at least three times. But that’s also another story.